Milton Bradley's a start, but if Chicago teams want to captivate fans again, we'll need several more athletes just like him. (AP photo)
If Bonnie Tyler were to pen a song about Chicago sports, it might be titled "Holding Out For An Anti-hero."
With the exception of Ozzie Guillen, it's been a while since Chicago sports had a truly controversial, divisive figure in its midst. What Chicago teams lack is a good villain. Long gone are the days of Albert Belle to the White Sox, Dennis Rodman to the Bulls and Sammy Sosa in his waning days with the Cubs.
In Milton Bradley, however, the Cubs are committing themselves to a proven hothead -- a return, perhaps, to this city's tradition of employing outburst-able players.
I hope it's a city-wide trend.
When was the last time the Bears signed a marquee name to their stolid ranks? Last I checked, it's in a professional sports team's best interest to keep its fans entertained. This can be done one of two ways.
A. Win ... like, a lot.
B. Create an atmosphere where there are a healthy amount of provocative story lines and devilishly interesting players that you want to follow.
Because the Bears seem to be physiologically unable execute option A with any consistency, they are left to option B -- an practice at which they have failed miserably in recent years, mainly because entertainment value hasn't been the Bears' m.o. since Ditka's departure.
Let's compare the Bears and the Cowboys this season -- two teams with identical records and equal levels of disappointment from their respective fans.
There is nothing more yawn-inducing than following a team that goes 9-7 and misses the playoffs (as both the Bears and Cowboys did). Yet, which team was more fascinating? Which team captured more intriguing headlines? Which team's demise was more fun to watch? If you say the Bears, then you're a completely biased fan, and should be excluded from any logic-based sports discussion.
Clearly it was the Cowboys, whose trio of headline grabbers -- Tony Romo, Terrell Owens and Pacman Jones -- kept us entertained and made us forget (or not even care) that they missed the playoffs.
The Bears, meanwhile, make it a habit to get rid of their huge, embarrassing train wrecks (Tank Johnson, Cedric Benson) in favor of a gaggle of law abiders and reformed train wrecks (or would it be Lamborghini wrecks?).
And you know -- beyond a shadow of a doubt -- that the Bears will stick with the Marty Bookers of the league long before they'll ever pay a penny to a guy like T.O.
And as for the Bulls -- aside from the drafting of Derrick Rose with this year's first overall pick -- when was the last time fans had any sort of strong emotion about about a front-office decision? The Ben Wallace trade to Cleveland was arguably the last major move that GM John Paxson made. That bores me. The most interesting thing about that trade was Drew Gooden's facial hair.
If you're going to throw a bunch of guys on the court who are just going to phone it in night after night for a do-nothing coach, then at least bring in a player who's going to get ticked off about the situation enough to boil over within earshot of members of the media! Instead, we're stuck with Vinny Del Negro -- whose most controversial move this season has been the banning of food in the locker room before the game. A move that begs only one follow-up question -- what about Ben Gordon's pre-game ritual of eating a PB & J sandwich?
Are you kidding? I'll take Ron Artest jacking fans in the jaw any day over Ben Gordon's PB & J.
We all saw what happened to Joakim Noah in his rookie season when he displayed the slightest bit of emotion about his perceived lack of effort on the part of his teammates. He was told by Scott Skiles to promptly shut his yapper, and we haven't heard from him -- or or off the court -- since. Noah was a guy who came from a team where he barely lost at Florida. He was a proven winner when he first stepped foot in Cook County. And now he's settled comfortably into this tradition of mediocrity and quiet servitude that will continue to keep the United Center far from capacity.
Since when did Chicago become so conservative? Since when is this a city that plays it safe. Gurdon Hubbard and William Ogden would be disgusted!
The presence of a good villain gives other cities and the fans of their teams a reason to hate us. And being hated just means you're doing something right -- whether its selling tickets and keeping everyone on the edge of their stadium seats waiting to see what's going to happen next or, God forbid, winning.